Election hopefuls fail to impress the young


YOUTH VOTE:DESPITE all the Bebo, Facebook and Twitter action by election candidates, many young people say the local and European election campaigns have been dull and lifeless.

The most common complaints from young people interviewed by The Irish Timesare that politicians never answer the questions they’re asked, they have no interest in youth issues and it’s hard to tell one party from the other.

But there is one thing that particularly irks young people. It’s when canvassers call to the door, ascertain that the person is too young to vote and immediately ask “is your mammy or daddy at home?”

Maria Campbell (17), from Athlone, has often seen this happen. “And if the parents aren’t in, they’ll just go off. I can see their point if you’re not old enough to vote, but I’ll be able to vote next year. Shouldn’t they think ahead?”

She is looking forward to exercising her vote when the time comes but finds this campaign quite dull with few differences emerging between the parties.

That view is echoed by many others. The youth organisation SpunOut.ie recently conducted a small survey of 50 people aged between 18 and 25 and found that 70 per cent were not planning to vote on Friday.

If the findings are representative, then some 500,000 young people will not vote in these elections, according to SpunOut.ie founder Ruairí McKiernan.

“Those that do intend voting appear to be moving away from post Civil War politics where people voted Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil in line with family allegiances,” he says.

A much larger survey by the National Youth Council, involving more than 1,000 people found that only 64 per cent of 18-21 year-olds were registered to vote.

The council is campaigning to lower the age for voting to 16 for local and European elections. It has already received support from Labour, Sinn Féin and the Green Party. Ógra Fianna Fáil believes it should be lowered to 16 but the party does not have a policy on it yet while Fine Gael believes the age limit should be 17.

Madeleine Carr (15), a member of the “Vote at 16” campaign group, says teenagers would become more interested in politics if they had more of a say. “I don’t think it’s fair that we cannot influence something that affects our everyday lives until we’re 18 and therefore issues involving young people aren’t properly dealt with.”

But 17-year-old Noel Fahy from Corofin, Co Galway, feels the age limit is a good thing. “I’m getting interested in politics as I get older but most people don’t care too much so I think 18 is probably a good age to start voting at.”

Jen Aicken (19), from Letterkenny, Co Donegal, does not intend to use her vote. She says she is interested in politics but “I don’t feel I will make any difference whatsoever if I vote. It’s not that I don’t care”.

Rosie O’Dowd (17), from Tralee, struggles to see the difference between the parties. “Look at America and England where you can really see the different ideologies that clearly separate the parties . . . But when the time comes, I will use my vote and be proactive.”